The Key

The key lay on the sidewalk, cold silver glinting in the winter sun. Something–hope, or fate?–prompted me to pick it up. Turning it over in my hand, I wondered only half-mockingly if it was supposed to be the key to my future, my past, or maybe the key to your heart.

Most would say it was pure superstition to imbue an inanimate object with that much significance. I wish I could agree with them.

That little bit of metal weighed heavily in my pocket for weeks. I could feel it, heavier than it should have been, as I walked to work and home again, as I did the groceries and popped out to lunch with friends. And, each Tuesday as you and I walked arm-in-arm down the snowy streets to that little bar on the corner, I could feel it pulling one side of my coat down just a bit more than the other.

Did you notice? You never mentioned it if you did, and you were always so perceptive when it came to symmetry – or the lack thereof.

It began to feel like the proverbial albatross, but still I carried it. It was there in my pocket that night, our last Tuesday as it turned out. The streets were unusually slippery and thick with snow as we picked our way past shopfronts and other pedestrians, you ahead of me for once instead of by my side. I kept looking up into the orange glow of the streetlights, watching the thick snowflakes as they fluttered in and out of the halos. I was trying to hold back the tears.

Yes, I knew it was over even before you said anything. People feel these things.

We reached the bar and you went straight down the narrow stone steps and disappeared inside, leaving me to make my own way down carefully, alone. You were clearly on a mission. When I finally stepped into the dim, faded red ambience of the place, you were already at a table. I noted it wasn’t our usual corner; that had already been taken.

“Something has changed.” You launched into it without preamble the moment I sat down. I thought briefly that you were talking about the seating arrangements rather than us.

“When? When did it change?” I remember asking. I wanted a day and a time.

You looked at me then, curious, like you suspected I knew something. Sighing, resigning yourself to the truth, you gave me the day, and her name.

It was you, not the key, you and the weakness of the human spirit, that made all this happen.

And yet. And yet, the date you gave me was of course the same day that I found the key.

I don’t know why we bothered going through the motions that night, ordering our drinks and our dinners. We sat there for hours, hands wrapped around our individual glasses, staring in silence, oblivious to the other lives, the other dramas, unfolding in front of us.

I don’t go back there now. I wonder sometimes if you take her there, if you sit at our table.

I still carry the key, though. I’ve started looking around for a possible lock it might belong to, a possible life I might belong to. I can’t believe that finding the key was accident, and I won’t believe that it was only a catalyst for our end. It isn’t the key to your heart, but maybe it is the key to my future.

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16 thoughts on “The Key

  1. Crisp and amazing as always, Silver. You’ve gotten even better in the few months I’ve spent away from WordPress. The symbolism is beautiful, and I was taken aback briefly when you broke a fourth wall of sorts, and spoke to one of your characters directly, as if I was that man. The timing is odd, as one of my close friends just broke up from hr relationship. On a personal note, I hope this story isn’t meant to apply to you, or anyone important to you, and that everything is going well on your end 🙂
    great post, see ya round!

    • Hey, DS! Nice to see you again 🙂 Thank you for your very kind words, both about the story and life in general. Thankfully, no, this isn’t about me at all. I saw a key in the snow a few months ago and jotted it down as an idea. This week, when I thought I had no inspiration at all, I went back through my ideas and the key sparked a whole story. I wrote it at lunch on Wednesday, posted it, and that was that. I worked a lot more on the story I posted 2 weeks ago, but it’s amazing to hear you think I’ve improved. Hope all is well with you.

  2. It isn’t the key to your heart, but maybe it is the key to my future. Beautiful line which holds a lot of meaning and hope too even in the times of adversities. The symbolism of the key is rather interesting. People come into our live not by accident or chance but for a reason – maybe to teach some valuable lessons.

    • Thank you for the compliment, and for your thoughts. I struggle with the idea of coincidence vs fate but for some reason, the moment I saw a key lying on the sidewalk in the snow, I knew it would eventually lead to a story in which it had some sort of deeper significance.

  3. I love the magical-superstitious value of the key, and how the narrator does/doesn’t want to treat it as such. Makes for a believable and sympathetic story.

    • Thank you, Jenn. I’m so glad to hear that I achieved that balance. We can never know for sure whether magic/fate plays a role in things, or if everything is just a coincidence. It’s fun to play with the middle ground!

  4. You and I have a mysterious synchronicity, don’t we, Silver?! I see this piece, with its opened ending, as one that could be carried on into a longer story or a novel. Maybe? Nudge, nudge. Love the metaphor of symmetry — it works so well here. And your details are vivid: the slippery street, the snow in the streetlight halo. The way he walked ahead of her, which she knew was different and strange and wrong. Just perfect, Silver.

    • I love that we both started with keys – love it! You are so lovely with your thoughtful, detailed comments, my dear. I could see those moments and places so clearly – perhaps I will make my way back to her in her new life, with her key, at some point 🙂

  5. Oh all these ‘things’…

    Very poignant and I relate totally.

    “I don’t go back there now. I wonder sometimes if you take her there, if you sit at our table.”

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